Herbal tea, or, more properly, tisane (UK //, US //), is any beverage made from the infusion or decoction of herbs, spices, or other plant material in hot water, and usually does not contain caffeine. These drinks are distinguished from true teas (black, green, white, yellow, oolong, etc., which are prepared from the cured leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis), as well as from decaffeinated tea, in which the caffeine has been removed. In many countries, the word 'tea' may only be used for leaves of Camellia sinensis and therefore the phrase 'herbal tea' is a contradiction in terms, and should not be used. These beverages are therefore labelled infusion or tisane.
Like beverages made from true teas, herbal teas can be served hot or cold. Documents have been recovered dating back to Ancient Egypt and Ancient China that discuss the enjoyment and uses of herbal teas. Among the Chinese, herbal teas are commonly known as liang cha (Chinese: 涼茶; pinyin: liáng chá; Jyutping: loeng4 caa4).
As herbal teas can be composed of any plant material, including some plants that are known to be toxic, the specific ingredients must be checked individually for health and safety. Most retail herbal teas sold as beverages could be considered safe, but medicinal herbal teas could easily contain herbs that cause damage in large amounts.
- Comfrey, which contains alkaloids that can cause permanent liver damage with chronic use
- Lobelia, which contains alkaloids similar in effect to nicotine
Herbal teas can also have different effects from person to person, and this is further compounded by the problem of potential misidentification. The deadly foxglove, for example, can be mistaken for the much more benign (but still relatively toxic to the liver) comfrey.
The UK does not require herbal teas to have any evidence concerning their efficacy, but does treat them technically as food products and require that they are safe for consumption.
Depending on the source of the herbal ingredients, herbal teas, like any crop, may be contaminated with pesticides or heavy metals. According to Naithani & Kakkar (2004), "all herbal preparations should be checked for toxic chemical residues to allay consumer fears of exposure to known neuro-toxicant pesticides and to aid in promoting global acceptance of these products".
In addition to the issues mentioned above which are toxic to all people, several medicinal herbs are considered abortifacients, and if consumed by a pregnant woman could cause miscarriage. These include common ingredients like nutmeg, mace, papaya, bitter melon, verbena, saffron, slippery elm, and possibly pomegranate. It also includes more obscure herbs, like mugwort, rue, pennyroyal, wild carrot, blue cohosh, tansy, and savin.
In China, the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach is used in formulating natural herbal teas and they are very popular in enhancing health and addressing core issues within the body; e.g. formulated recipes like hawthorn plus oolong / pu-er are used to address the high fat level in the bloodstream. The Chinese term liang cha, means "cooling tea", and the Chinese drink it to cool down the body when it has become overheated due to weather or sickness.
In Sri Lanka, herbal teas have a long history within the local tradition of indigenous medicine. Iramusu (Smilax regelii), beli (Bael), ranawara (Senna auriculata), polpala (Aerva lanata), weniwel (Coscinium fenestratum), and kothala-himbutu (Salacia reticulata) are among the many plant species used to make herbal teas, which are used to treat a wide variety of ailments. The widely used "paspanguwa" (translated as five-portions) is a common local remedy for colds and fever containing the five ingredients pathpadagam (Mollugo cerviana), katuwelbatu (Solanum virginianum), koththamalli (coriander seed), thippili (long pepper), and inguru (ginger), often served with a sweetener of sugar or jaggery.
Herbal teas can be made with fresh or dried flowers, leaves, seeds or roots, generally by pouring boiling water over the plant parts and letting them steep for a few minutes. Seeds and roots can also be boiled on a stove. The herbal tea is then strained, sweetened if so desired, and served. Many companies produce herbal tea bags for such infusions.
While varieties of herbal teas are defined as any plant material for infusion, below is a list of common herbs:
- Anise tea, made from either the seeds or the leaves.
- Asiatic penny-wort leaf, in Southeast Asia
- Artichoke tea.
- Bee Balm
- Boldo, used in South America
- Cannabis tea, used in the preparation of Bhang
- Caraway tea, made from the seeds
- Catnip tea is used as a relaxant, sedative, and to calm
- Chamomile, commonly used for sore stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, and as a gentle sleep aid. It is also used as a mild laxative and is anti-inflammatory and bactericidal.
- Che Dang, very bitter tea made from Ilex causue leaves
- Chinese knot-weed teaer
- Chrysanthemum tea, made from dried flowers, is popular with Chinese Dim sum
- Coca tea, infusion made from coca leaves. Contains trace amounts of cocaine and similar alkaloids. In some countries where coca is illegal, products marketed as "coca tea" are supposed to be decocainized, i.e., the pharmacologically active components have been removed from the leaf using the same chemicals used in manufacturing cocaine.
- Cacao bean tea
- Coffee tea leaves and coffee cherry tea are herbal teas made using the leaves and cherries of the coffee plant; in coffee the coffee beans (seeds) are instead used.
- Cerasse, a bitter Jamaican herb
- Citrus peel, including bergamot, lemon and orange peel
- Dandelion coffee
- Dill tea, commonly used to ease upset stomachs.
- Echinacea tea
- European Mistletoe (Viscum album), (steep in cold water for 2–6 hours)
- Essiac tea, a blended herbal tea
- Ginger root can be made into herbal tea, known in the Philippines as salabat.
- Ginseng, a popular tea in China and Korea, commonly used as a stimulant and as a caffeine substitute.
- Goji, a popular and very simple to prepare tea
- Hibiscus (often blended with rose hip), a popular tea alternative in the Middle East which is drunk hot or cold. Hibiscus tea is also consumed in Okinawa, and used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine (see Hibiscus health benefits). It is also used in Roselle (see below.)
- Honeybush is similar to rooibos and grows in a nearby area of South Africa, but tastes slightly sweeter. Has a low tannin content, no caffeine and has potential health effects related to its antimutagenic and antioxidant properties.
- Moringa, claimed to be high in vitamins, minerals, proteins, antioxidants and amino acids.
- Hydrangea tea, dried leaves of hydrangeas; considerable care must be taken because most species contain a toxin. The "safe" hydrangeas belong to the Hydrangea serrata Amacha ("sweet tea") Cultivar Group.
- Jiaogulan, (also known as xiancao or poor man's ginseng)
- Kapor tea, dried leaves of fireweed
- Kava root, from the South Pacific, commonly used for its effects in promoting talkativeness and relaxation. As well, kava extracts may be an effective alternative to tricyclic antidepressants and benzodiazepines for the treatment of anxiety disorders.
- Kratom, dried leaves of the Kratom tree, drank for its medicinal and stimulant effects.
- Kuzuyu, is a thick white Japanese tea made by adding kudzu flour to hot water
- Labrador tea, made from the shrub by the same name, found in the northern part of North America.
- Lapacho (also known as Taheebo) is the inner-lining of the bark (or cambium) of the Red or Purple Lapacho Tree which grows in the Brazilian jungles. It is promoted as a treatment for a number of ailments, including cancer, but without evidence to support this.
- Lemon Balm
- Lemon and ginger tea
- Lemon grass
- Luo han guo
- Licorice root
- Lime blossom, dried flowers of lime tree (Tilia in Latin).
- Mint, especially peppermint (also mixed with green tea to make mint tea)
- Mountain Tea, a very popular tea in the Balkans and other areas of the Mediterranean region. Made from a variety of the Sideritis syriaca plant which grows in warm climates above 3,000 feet. Records of its use date back 2,000 years.
- Neem leaf
- Nettle leaf
- New Jersey Tea
- Noni tea
- Oksusu cha (옥수수 차), traditional roasted corn tea found in Korea.
- Patchouli tea
- Pennyroyal leaf, an abortifacient
- Pine tea, or tallstrunt, made from needles of pine trees is high in vitamins A and C,
- Poppy tea, drank for its sedative and analgesic properties.
- Qishr, Yemeni drink with coffee husks and ginger.
- Red clover tea
- Red raspberry leaf
- Roasted barley tea, known in Japanese as mugicha and Korean as bori cha. The roasted flavor can be reminiscent of coffee (without coffee's bitterness and caffeine). It is often drunk cold in the summer.
- Roasted wheat is used in Postum, a coffee substitute.
- Rooibos (Red Bush) is a reddish plant used to make an infusion and grown in South Africa. In the US it is sometimes called red tea. It has many of the antioxidant characteristics of green tea, but because it does not come from tea leaves, it has no caffeine.
- Rose hip (often blended with hibiscus)
- Roselle petals (species of Hibiscus; aka Bissap, Dah, etc.), consumed in the Sahel and elsewhere.
- Sagebrush, California Sagebrush
- Sakurayu is a Japanese herbal tea made with pickled cherry blossom petals.
- Sassafras roots were steeped to make tea and were used in the flavoring of root beer until being banned by the FDA.
- Scorched rice, known as hyeonmi cha in Korea
- Serendib (tea), a tea from Sri Lanka
- Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) leaves used to make a tea by some native peoples of eastern North America
- Spruce tea, made from needles of spruce trees is high in vitamin C
- Staghorn sumac fruit can made into a lemonade.
- Stevia can be used to make herbal tea, or as a sweetener in other beverages.
- St. John's Wort can be used as an herbal anti-depressant.
- Thyme Antiseptic. Thymol is used in lysterine.
- Tulsi, or Holy Basil, in English
- Turmeric tea
- Uncaria tomentosa, commonly known as Cat's Claw
- Valerian is used as a sedative.
- Verbena (Vervains)
- Wax gourd in East Asia and Southeast Asia.
- Wong Lo Kat, a recipe for herbal tea from Canton, China since Ching Dynasty
Ayurvedic tea is made of Ayurvedic herbs like Agya Ghas, Yeshtimadhu, Tulasi etc. Various pharmacies have come up with their products using different combinations of Ayurvedic medicines. Ayurvedic tea has also been found to contain nutrients including calcium, potassium, vanadium, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc.
- Health food store
- List of hot beverages
- Tea culture
- Tincture, the often more concentrated plant extracts made in pure grain alcohol, glycerin, or vinegar
- Traditional Chinese medicine
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- Learning materials related to infusion maker at Wikiversity
- Media related to tisanes at Wikimedia Commons